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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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World Cup favourite Nessun dorma toppled off top spot as Radio 3 announces Nation's Favourite Aria

BBC Radio 3

As World Cup fever takes hold, Britain's opera fans will today be celebrating the fact that an English aria has beaten off tough competition from Italy, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic to become the BBC Radio 3 Nation's Favourite Aria.

Henry Purcell's When I am laid in earth, from Dido and Aeneas, has triumphed against old favourites including Nessun dorma, an aria made even more famous by Luciano Pavarotti when it was used as the theme of the BBC's coverage of the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

This is the first time that Radio 3 has ever conducted a search on this scale.

Other well-known arias such as Porgi amor from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and the Toreador Song from Bizet's Carmen surprisingly didn't make the final stage, which was announced this morning on Radio 3's Breakfast programme.

Radio 3 launched the Nation's Favourite Aria on the station's Breakfast programme on 17 May. Listeners were asked to email or text in their favourites, many of which were played on the programme. When the 11 nominations were revealed 12 days ago listeners then voted online to chose the winner.

Dido and Aeneas is Purcell's only fully sung stage work and is one of the earliest English operas in the regular repertoire. The aria comes at the end of the opera as Dido, Queen of Carthage, having been abandoned by the Trojan Prince Aeneas, flings herself on a funeral pyre.

The Top 10 are:

1. When I am laid in earth (Dido and Aeneas, Purcell)
2. Dove sono (Marriage of Figaro, Mozart)
3. Liebestod (Tristan and Isolde, Wagner)
4. E lucevan le stelle (Tosca, Puccini)
5. Casta diva (Norma, Bellini)
6. Song to the Moon (Rusalka, Dvorak)
7. Che faro senza Euridice? (Orfeo ed Euridice, Gluck)
8. The Queen of the Night's second aria "Der holle Rache" (Magic Flute, Mozart)
9. Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben (Zaide, Mozart)
10. Marietta's Lied "Gluck das mir verblieb" (Die tote Stadt, Korngold)
11. Mon coeur s'oeuvre a ta voix (Samson and Dalila, Saint-Saens)

Note: There was a tie – so the final list included 11 arias.

Breakfast presenter Rob Cowan says: "I'm not in the least surprised. As operatic arias go, this has to be among the greatest of all – a grief-laden outpouring that's up there with the best of Puccini or Wagner. And what a melody!"

Breakfast presenter Sara Mohr Pietsch says: "It's touching that it's an English rather than an Italian bel canto aria that's won the most support. Purcell's music gives us access to the heart of a proud queen in the final minutes of her life, one of those rare and beautiful moments when every listener is on the edge of their seat."

Controller of Radio 3, Roger Wright, says: "We're delighted that our listeners have enjoyed hearing these great arias on Radio 3 Breakfast. It is pleasing to see the way in which they have engaged with this fun search for the favourite aria and continue to enjoy the BBC's celebration of opera."

The search for the Nation's Favourite Aria is part of Opera on the BBC, a celebration of opera across radio, television and online.

Notes to Editors

Radio 3 broadcasts classical music, jazz, world music, arts programmes and drama. Last year Radio 3 broadcast over 600 complete concerts and operas from venues and festivals across the UK and beyond. Radio 3 is the home of the BBC Proms and broadcasts every concert live. It supports composers, writers and new young performers and last year broadcast over 40 new drama productions. See


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